First C4C update draws ire, applause

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Before a packed house at the Regional Business Development Center Tuesday afternoon, Stephannie Finley skillfully led the first in a series of monthly meetings to “review and update” the City for Champions proposal.

The first hour of the meeting was predictably dull, as backers of each of the four projects took their turns at the microphone, making speeches they’d made dozens of times before.

Dick Celeste was an exception.

The former Ohio governor, Ambassador to India and Colorado College president conveyed excitement, energy, and conviction as he fired up the crowd with his vision of the proposed Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame.

“This is the heart and soul of the United States Olympic movement,” Celeste said. “It can do for the city what the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame did for Cleveland. It has become the signature attraction of that city, with 450,000 annual visitors, 80 percent from out of town. We project 350,000, and that’s very conservative. If we put an Olympic Museum here, we keep the brand here.”

That’s been a common theme for Celeste, who several weeks ago was even more explicit.

“Unlike Pikes Peak,” he said then, “the USOC can move.”

Mayor Steve Bach acknowledged that the City Attorney has issued a preliminary opinion giving him the right to appoint the entire membership of the state-mandated C4C steering committee.

“I could name them all,” he said, “but I’ve asked (County Commissioner) Amy Lathen and (Council President) Keith King to co-chair the committee with me. There may be as many as eight citizens in addition.”

Given that Lathen and a majority of commissioners are behind C4C, it’s evident that supporters will have a solid majority on the committee.

Members of the public with questions or comments lined up at the beginning of the second hour. First up was local activist/philanthropist/yoga guru Kat Tudor, who read a long, convoluted statement decrying soil and groundwater pollution on the southwest downtown site formerly occupied by the Smokebrush Foundation, which she heads. Other speakers, some associated with Tudor, echoed her concerns.

While Bach responded courteously, he was careful.

“I don’t want to be too specific here,” he said, “I sense from what you’re saying that a potential lawsuit (against the city) may be involved.”

Next up was retired Colonel (and 2011 City Council candidate) Bill Murray, who has persistently questioned the facts and assumptions driving the proposal, especially concerning the Colorado Sports and Events Center.

Murray attacked attendance projections for events at the facility, calling them grossly overblown and utterly disconnected from reality.

Bach explained that many projected events would take place over several days, and that visitor counts included not only spectators but participants, coaches, and their families. That didn’t satisfy Murray, who continued to hammer away at C4C until Finley reminded him that others were waiting to speak.

One speaker drew applause from the crowd when he suggested involving the community in the downtown projects by offering small donors commemorative bricks to be placed in the public plaza next to the museum.

“That’s a great idea,” said Celeste. “That’s what we did at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. There are about 5,000 bricks, each with a donor’s name. We’ll have a sign-up sheet at the next meeting.”

Trying to clear up misconceptions about the genesis of the stadium proposal, Bach said that the idea didn’t come from him.

“A few months after I took office,” he recalled, “I was approached initially by representatives of the Sky Sox and the Rockies. I didn’t call them – they called me. They wanted a downtown stadium, and they shared that with me.”

The two teams abandoned the idea after strong community opposition surfaced, and C4C backers amended the initial proposal.

Speaking even more strongly than usual (which is saying a lot!) Bach defended the spirit and substance of C4C:

“The purpose of C4C is to turn the economy around,” he said. “We wouldn’t be here tonight if the EDC (Colorado Economic Development Corporation) hadn’t agreed and made that award. This is something we should be celebrating.”

The supportive crowd burst into applause.

Immediately afterward, Council president Keith King appeared to offer an olive branch.

“We’ll be listening to your concerns and gathering information (during the coming weeks and months)” King said. “Council wants to speak with one voice to the community.”


4 Responses to First C4C update draws ire, applause

  1. It needs to be repeated that the citizens must hold Council’s feet to fire and insist that local contractors and local business must be the primary participants in the construction of this facility. And the labor must come from the local community. If Council ends up contracting foreign companies it will do little or nothing for the local economy.

    Steven Shepard
    February 19, 2014 at 9:24 pm

  2. While Col. Murray (ret) May anger some, he may be right:

    This city does not seem to want, nor may be able to afford (the upkeep) on such projects.

    The majority of people who move or visit here seem to have much less disposable income than other Colorado locales.

    We also seem to have a fractionated, opinionated and generally anti-development crowd.

    The combination of the two bodes poorly for C4C. I have a feeling it will die an ignominies death, and we will do nothing to prevent our children freon leaving or other young professionals from moving to other Front Range communities with better economic futures and social structures.

    John M
    February 20, 2014 at 2:21 pm

  3. The vast majority of people I have talked to, are for the entire C4C project and are very proud and excited about the future of our city. I attended a business event in Denver last month and I was pleased to hear that the news about the Olympic Museum and other projects have positioned Colorado Springs as a forward-thinking city that is doing something progressive. They were genuinely happy for us and excited to visit—I detected a bit of envy.

    I think they are right, we have this magnificent opportunity to create and position our city unlike any other. And we must not forget about the ongoing benefits that come after the projects are complete—economic development, job creation, and civic pride.

    Every person can make a difference and “champion” our future. We can all start, by telling our leaders and volunteers thank you for “carrying the torch” providing vision and energy.

    Bernard Sandoval
    February 21, 2014 at 5:12 pm

  4. C4C will do for CoSps,what redevelopment did for OKC,OK.It will wake the citizenry up to what needs to be done to revive a community that
    is stuck in the 60’s & too stupid to realize it.Look at all of the businesses that have downsized or left.What ever happened to ” Silicon
    Mountain” ???
    If the Broadmoor & El Pomar are in, what more do you need to know ?

    Pat Holligan
    St.Mary’s ’58
    UNC ’63

    Patrick Holligan
    February 22, 2014 at 11:26 am